Faye Mackenzie and her friends’ anorexic daughter, Clare are thrown together when a flood separates them from their hiking group in the remote, mountainous Tsitsikamma region of South Africa. With Clare critically injured, Faye is compelled to overcome her self-doubt and fear of thewild to take care of the younger woman, who opens her heart to Faye.
As their new friendship takes the women on an unexpected journey of discovery, the rest of the group wrestles with the harrowing aftermath of their own near tragedy. When the hiking party is reunited, their number is reduced by one. Juxtaposing physical and psychological intrigue, The Wilderness Between Us is a tale of two fragile women who unexpectedly find clarity, independence and renewed purpose as they fight to survive. It is a vivid, moving story about family, friendship, adventure and the healing power of nature and compassion.
Long-time journalist and columnist, and latter-day author, Penny Haw has written for many leading South African newspapers and magazines for more than three decades. Her children’s book, Nicko, The Tale of a Vervet Monkey on an African Farm was published in 2017 and is now included in school curricula. The Wilderness Between Us is her debut novel for adults, again expounding her love for animals and the outdoors.
My thoughts: this was really interesting, as Clare and Faye both wrestle with what they want from their lives while waiting for rescue in the South African forest. They start to bond over their situation, and confide in one another, sleeping in a temporary structure under the trees, surrounded by wildlife – lizards, wild pigs and leopards.
Faye is married to bully Derek, who has gaslit her all their marriage, eventually basically manipulating her into not leaving the house, their son Zach even offers to give her pocket money as a child because he doesn’t understand why she’s so isolated. Derek is obsessed with Michelle, who he’s known since childhood, Clare’s mother.
As the situation in the forest unravels for all of them, all three think about the past and what they want for the future.
Clare has been wrestling with anorexia, trying to get better and eat more, but has isolated herself from friends and family while trying to manage her illness. It’s handled very sensitively by the author, who in a foreword mentions her own experience with the condition.
A thought provoking and intriguing book.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.